Burnout in Women and Nonbinary Leaders of Color

with Teresa C. Younger of the Ms. Foundation for Women

According to a new report, a burnout crisis is impacting the sustainability of social justice organizations.

Teresa C. Younger, CEO and President of the Ms. Foundation for Women, joins host Tetiana Anderson to discuss the impact of philanthropic underinvestment in women and nonbinary leaders of color, and the organizations they lead.

Posted on:

February 29, 2024

Hosted by: Tetiana Anderson
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Anderson: Many women and nonbinary leaders of color are experiencing burnout, according to a new report. Researchers say this widespread mental exhaustion will impact the sustainability of social justice organizations and weaken movements that fight for racial and gender equity in the U.S. Hello, and welcome to Comcast Newsmakers. I'm Tetiana Anderson. To address what they are calling a burnout crisis, advocates are urging philanthropists to reform funding procedures that lead to underinvestment and disinvestment in women and nonbinary leadership organizations. And joining me to talk about the recommendations and real-life experiences outlined in this report is Teresa C. Younger. She is CEO and president for Ms. Foundation for Women. And Teresa, thank you so much for being here.

Younger: Thank you for having me.

Anderson: You've been traveling across the country talking to women and nonbinary leaders. And for those in the audience not familiar with nonbinary, it means people who feel like they fall outside of the traditional gender categories of man and woman. And I know you heard burnout all along the way. So what is it that you're hearing from these folks? Describe some of the things that they're dealing with.

Younger: It's been an intense few years, if we recall, from 2020 to now, even. And many people were burned out before then. And the reality is, what we're seeing and hearing is that there hasn't been a letdown. The rise of hate crimes in this country continues, misogyny continues to be a problem, sexism continues to be a problem. And so those that are working in the field to try to level it are really feeling very pulled at all levels.

Anderson: So if the people who are working in this field are feeling so burned out as you've been hearing, what's keeping them in their roles? Why are they continuing?

Younger: You know, one of the things the report pulls out is the fact that most women, girls of color and nonbinary people are doing this work because it applies to their heart. It is their heart song. It is a thing they are compelled to do because they wake up every day and they are connected to the world that they are looking to influence.

Anderson: After the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis -- he was a Black man killed at the hands of a white police officer -- there was this real influx of support for social justice organizations. But why didn't that really move the needle?

Younger: Well, it has moved the needle. The problem is the needle won't stay moved. We've already seen philanthropy start rolling back on its commitment to women and girls of color and nonbinary people. And what we should understand about the George Floyd incident is it was taped by a young woman. The activists and the people that were influenced by it were women. And so the reality is not only are we looking at the burdens that these women are carrying, they are the ones telling the story and holding their communities together when their sons, brothers, uncles and fathers are being murdered in the streets.

Anderson: The Ms. Foundation for Women did a report in 2020, it was called Pocket Change, and it found that philanthropic giving just really wasn't getting to where it needed to go. Just 0.5 percent of the $66.9 billion awarded actually reached its target. Now you have Pocket Change 2.0. What are some of the most significant findings in that report?

Younger: So Pocket Change, the initial report, How Women And Girls Of Color Are Doing More With Less was just the baseline. We wanted to say, here are the dollars by region, by state, by race and ethnicity. What Pocket Change 2.0 really lays out is what is missing when we underinvest and disinvest in these organizations which are quintessential to our democracy in America. They're the ones that are making sure people have food on their table, can vote, are speaking up at their state and local legislators. These are the people that are organizing and bringing folks together. And so we just really wanted to show two things. One, that no organization is doing one thing to get the job done. They're doing multiple things. So we talk about it as multiple issues and multiple strategies. And that means that there's not any one check-off box. And we need to look at these over a long time. You know, oppression didn't just happen yesterday. And so how do we invest in these women and women's organizations and community organizations for the long haul, for the change we want to see?

Anderson: You have been at this with the Ms. Foundation for Women for 10 years at this point.

Younger: Yeah.

Anderson: What kind of plans do you and the organization have to continuing to move the needle on all of these issues?

Younger: Yeah. So we are committed. We, you know, five years ago, 10 years ago, we were moving about $2 million. Today we're moving well over that. We've tripled or almost quadrupled the budget of how we are supporting grassroots organizations. And we're speaking truth to power, not just the truth that we know, but we are also challenging philanthropy from what we are hearing from our grantee partners in the field. And we are putting on the table real suggestions. We're saying you can't just put money on the table and walk away. You need to be long-term invested. You need to trust that these women actually have the answers to help and heal their communities. And you need to do it for a long time. And you need to do it consistently. And this isn't about checking off a box. This is about really investing in democratic change in this country.

Anderson: People are going to want to know more about everything you're doing. What's your website?

Younger: Our website is ForWomen.org, F-O-R-W-O-M-E-N dot O-R-G. And we ask people to go up. You can get the report, both Pocket Change 1 and Pocket Change 2. You can also find other information about the work that we are doing and you can get a full list of all of our grantees. We have over 150 grantees throughout the United States and U.S. territories.

Anderson: Teresa C. Younger with the Ms. Foundation for Women, thank you so much for being here.

Younger: Thank you for having me.

Anderson: And thanks to you as well for watching. As always, for more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, visit ComcastNewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.

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